Telluride Mountain Village Bans Retail Pot Sales: Possibly Influenced by Second Homeowners

The Mountain Village Council recently voted by a 4-3 margin on January 16th, 2013 to not allow retail marijuana sales in the Mountain Village – apparently as a result of a TMVOA (Telluride Mountain Village Owners Association) survey which saw a response rate of about 66% opposed to retail pot sales.  According to a story in the Telluride Daily Planet a council member changed her previous yes vote to a no vote “based in part on the results of a weeklong opinion survey conducted in early January by the Telluride Mountain Village Owners Association”.

Prior to Thursday’s vote,  the council had previously postponed the issue via a moratorium which had previously been in place.  By contrast, greater than 70% of San Miguel County voters opted to vote in favor of Amendment 64 in November of 2012.

There are couple things I find interesting about this recent decision:

Not a single member of TMV council should be in the dark regarding the situation whereby the lines have been out the door in all the marijuana outlets in Telluride since retail sales started the first of the year.  Not only is there a huge demand in the Town of Telluride, but the limited supply has caused the price to nearly double from reported previous level street prices … translating into a tax boon for the Town of Telluride.  Last I checked, the TMV has been in a protracted process to tighten it’s financial belt.  Surely, this fact can’t be lost upon the council member who voted “no” on pot sales.   This is in light of instituting a fee within the past couple of years for visitors to park at what is pretty much the only large scale public parking structure in the TMV next to Market and gondola (which is supposed to be a free transportation system).  It is my suspicion the parking fee ultimately sends more visitors to the Town of Telluride to park, shop, eat, etc. … and now to buy their weed.

Most importantly, what I find extremely interesting about this recent council decision is that the scale apparently tipped based upon a TMVOA survey which allows for 2nd homeowners to cast a vote in the survey; however, this group of voters were unable to participate in the 2012 election regarding amendment 64 (unless their primary residence happened to be elsewhere in Colorado).  While it’s difficult to prove that 2nd homeowners tipped the scale regarding pot sales on the TMVOA survey, it’s a reasonable possible conclusion and would be another tangible example of how a real living breathing community of actual people who mostly reside within the TMV’s boundaries might be directly affected by people who might live elsewhere for the vast majority of time.   So, instead of viewing retail pot sales via a first hand experiential perspective (whether you’re for or against it), it is possible some 2nd homeowners will evaluate any given decision strictly through an economic filter with respect to how it affects the economic line with respect to their investment property.  In my opinion, allowing such an element to be incorporated into a democratic process of self governance undermines the substantial nature of the fabric of a community as being a real network of relations which allows one another to get along in life.

Say what you want about pot sales, it’s the “voting twice” issue which I find most troublesome. I’ve been opposed to 2nd homeowner voting in the TMV ever since it became an issue in the 90’s.  I just happen to believe it’s inherently a bad road for us to go down since it tethers one’s representational voice in government to property ownership, where as I believe it ought to be derived from one’s presence within a community as a citizen – whether you’r the mayor or you just sit on your ass all day.

As way to expound upon my position:  I suppose in this day and age, where people are always coming and going to all corners of the globe, I’d be OK with “fractionalized voting” whereby if you spend 182 days in the TMV and 182 days in Austin, TX, you’d be afforded a half vote in the TMV … provided your vote in Austin were to likewise be reduced to being weighted at only 50% (or a half of a vote).  Or, another way to put it:  I believe everyone in the United States ought to be afforded a total limiti of 1 vote at the municipal level, just as we are currently only able to vote once each at the county, state, and federal levels..

Or, another way to look at it:  theoretically, if there were 1000 other municipalities which enacted voting regulations akin the TMV and I were to buy property in each of these 1000 municipalities, I could accumulate up to 1000 votes.

I suppose some might say it’s not the role of council members to step outside the boundaries of the TMV charter and  respect the role of the how 2nd homeowners have been crafted into the governing body.  However, a direct democratic process is one thing and representational democracy is quite another.  Likewise, a survey is one thing and a council vote is quite another.  To this end, apparently 3 out of the 7 board members felt strongly enough to invoke their representational privilage to dissent from the majority opinion of the survey.    In my opinion, a representative ought to be in a position to make decisions based upon “boots on the ground” facts and perspectives vs. the ideological abstractions conveyed by a peice of paper (or digital transmission) … let alone how such ideologies might be tethered purely by financial self interest vs. how such could affect the community at large based purely on a “real” resident’s position on what’s best for the common good.

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